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Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

Anyone listened to “Slipstream” yet? I picked up Bonnie Raitt’s first CD in seven years at the check out line in Whole Foods and it’s worth the wait. I love her voice, her lyrics, and the music. There is nothing not to like about this awesome CD.

Reel Girl rates “Slipstream” ***HHH***

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Artemis strikes again

If you’ve been following Reel Girl, you know I’ve been comparing Katniss Everdeen to Artemis ever since I read the book.

On the Ms. Blog today there is a post about the musician Dar Williams who I love. Her new CD “In the Time of Gods” was inspired by the Greek gods and goddesses.

Here’s what she says:

“I like Artemis the best. I’ve met that woman, and she is reviled in our society. She lives in the woods and she feeds squirrels and she has a shot gun and she hates your guts. I love her.”

Does that sound like Katniss or what?

Read the interview here. I can’t wait to hear the CD.

Here’s to hoping we run into more goddesses in books, on screens, and in music in 2012.

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When my daughter was seven years old, she turned me on to Taylor Swift. Every time the car radio scanned to a Swift song, she’d call out from the back seat, “I like this!” So last night when Swift sang “Mean” at the Grammys, I got chills. Swift’s original lyrics and radiant performances make her a great role model for girls. She shows kids that, with some creativity and perseverance, you can write your way from victim to hero.

In “Mean” Swift sings:

I bet you got pushed around
Somebody made you cold
But the cycle ends right now
Cause you can’t lead me down that road
And you don’t know, what you don’t know…

Swift’s “Mean” has become a beloved anthem for girls around the world. I think the lyrics resonate with kids in part because the song takes on the false belief that permeates so much of kidworld. Especially for girls, being mean is too often seen as cool or powerful. As you get older, in college, cruelty can continue to be equated with being smart, masquerading as a cynical or skeptical brand of superior intelligence. Whereas being kind can be seen as weak, uncool, or even dumb. Too many grown-ups go on to maintain this warped view.

In contrast, Swift directly challenges the mean-cool dogma with her sweetness, her songs about how she loves her mom, and the devoted way she treats her fans. Swift is also a brilliant lyricist who writes openly about her humiliations and, again and again, turns them into triumphs.

What humiliations? Many involve love and relationships, but some are less personal, more public, and have everything to do with her career.

At the 2009 MTV music awards, after the 19-year-old Swift won Best Female Video for “You Belong to Me,” rapper Kanye West stormed the stage, claiming the award should’ve gone to Beyonce. Both Swift and her mother were reportedly crying backstage. Later that night, when Beyonce won her own MTV award for Video of the Year, she asked Swift to take that time speak (which was cool of Beyonce and a good moment for females supporting each other publicly.)

Swift wrote a song about Kanye West and forgiveness called “Innocent.”

A year later, at the 2010 Grammys, Swift performed a duet with her idol, Stevie Nicks. She sang off key. A well known critic tore her apart, saying that Swift should reconsider her career as a singer.

It was about that experience that Swift wrote “Mean:”

You have pointed out my flaws again
As if I don’t already see them
I walk with my head down
Trying to block you out ’cause I’ll never impress you
I just wanna feel okay again…

And I can see you years from now in a bar
Talking over a football game
With that same big loud opinion
But nobody’s listening
Washed up and ranting about the same old bitter things
Drunk and grumbling on about how I can’t sing…

The chorus goes likes this:

Someday I’ll be living in a big ol’ city
And all you’re ever gonna be is mean
Someday I’ll be big enough so you can’t hit me
And all you’re ever gonna be is mean
Why you gotta be so mean?

But last night she sang:

“Someday, I’ll be singing this at the Grammys.”

Congratulations Taylor, you rock.

Click here to see Taylor Swift singing “Mean” at last night’s Grammys. Show this to your kids.

Here’s my eight-year-old daughter dressed as Swift for Halloween:

Here are all the lyrics to “Mean.”

You, with your words like knives
And swords and weapons that you use against me
You have knocked me off my feet again
Got me feeling like I’m nothing
You, with your voice like nails on a chalkboard
Calling me out when I’m wounded
You picking on the weaker man

Well you can take me down with just one single blow
But you don’t know, what you don’t know…

Someday I’ll be living in a big ol’ city
And all you’re ever gonna be is mean
Someday I’ll be big enough so you can’t hit me
And all you’re ever gonna be is mean
Why you gotta be so mean?

You, with your switching sides
And your wildfire lies and your humiliation
You have pointed out my flaws again
As if I don’t already see them
I walk with my head down
Trying to block you out ’cause I’ll never impress you
I just wanna feel okay again

I bet you got pushed around
Somebody made you cold
But the cycle ends right now
Cause you can’t lead me down that road
And you don’t know, what you don’t know…

Someday I’ll be living in a big ol’ city
And all you’re ever gonna be is mean
Someday I’ll be big enough so you can’t hit me
And all you’re ever gonna be is mean
Why you gotta be so mean?

And I can see you years from now in a bar
Talking over a football game
With that same big loud opinion
But nobody’s listening
Washed up and ranting about the same old bitter things
Drunk and grumbling on about how I can’t sing
But all you are is mean

All you are is mean
And a liar, and pathetic, and alone in life
And mean, and mean, and mean, and mean

But someday I’ll be living in a big ol’ city
And all you’re ever gonna be is mean, yeah
Someday I’ll be big enough so you can’t hit me
And all you’re ever gonna be is mean
Why you gotta be so?..

Someday I’ll be living in a big ol’ city (Why you gotta be so?..)
And all you’re ever gonna be is mean, yeah (Why you gotta be so?..)
Someday I’ll be big enough so you can’t hit me (Why you gotta be so?..)
And all you’re ever gonna be is mean
Why you gotta be so mean?

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Have you heard of Garfunkel and Oates?

They are hilarious. Here’s the link.

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At Warren Hellman’s memorial service, Heidi Clare, the fiddler for his band the Wronglers, told the crowd about the first time they played “The Big Twang Theory” just a few days earlier in Warren’s hospital room.

“The doctors gave him some hard news,” Clare said. “He was sitting in a chair, banjo in hand. He listened patiently, and waited for them to stop talking. Then he said, ‘And now I have something for you.’ And we played this song.”

The Big “Twang” Theory by Warren Hellman and Colleen Browne

We were drifting in eternal darkness

Free from joy or pain

When someone plucked a banjo

And the universe began

That single note it amplified

Then sparked and formed our sun

From which burst forth the planets

One by one by one

(Chorus)

Pickers, pluckers, plonkers born

To strum, perchance to croon

Drifting through the cosmos

Playing out of tune

The next to come, from space and dust, were

Old-time music bands

With fiddles, guitars, mandolins

Made from these cosmic sands

Then all the country music

The writers could compose

Was created in that instant

And sung through someone’s nose

(Chorus)

Great constellations formed

From the Carter Family’s works

Over there big black holes

Where old-time music lurks

Some found the sound appalling

An agony to hear

A true appreciation

Needs at least a case of beer

(Chorus)

That single plonk of the banjo

Sparked the music universe

We thought it would get better

But it’s only getting worse

A humongous group of banjos

Strumming old-time tunes

Playing on the planets

Playing on the moon

(Chorus)

One thing that’s for certain

It’s been a cosmic trip

Riding through the ether

On this old-time music ship

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Warren Hellman was one of the smartest, coolest people on the planet.

Extensive obituaries for the Bay Area investment banker and musician are all over the internet (locally at SFGate and the Bay Citizen which he helped found) with headlines like “The Billionaire Who Loved Bluegrass” and “Renaissance Man in a Cowboy shirt.” Posts and articles detail his many contributions to the Bay Area go on and on and are still incomplete. They include contributions like helping to reform the city’s pension, funding the San Francisco Free Clinic, heading the board of Mills college and trying to take it co-ed  (being met with signs that read: “Warren, go to hell man) creating an underground lot in Golden Gate Park, setting up an endowment for aquatic sports at UC Berkeley (he played water polo), and creating the Hellman Fellows Program to support tenure track faculty at UC campuses.

Most of all, Warren Hellman is now known for founding and completely funding the wildly successful, fun and free (for all of us) annual Hardly Strictly Bluegrass music festival in Golden Gate Park.

Why was Warren Hellman so generous? It made him happy. He wasn’t interested in collecting art or buying fancy cars. He enjoyed spending his time, money, and brain cells creating projects, solving problems, and helping communities thrive. He often said Hardly Strictly Bluegrass was his definition of heaven on earth. When asked about the festival by Forbes Magazine in 2006, he said: “How could you have more fun than that? What the hell is money for if it isn’t for something like that?”

His band is called the Wronglers. He spent much of the last year of his life recording and touring with legend Jimmie Dale Gilmore. You can get their CD “Heirloom Music” here.

One of my favorite memories of Warren is being in his office, listening to a song and laughing and laughing. The song is called “The Ballad of Sarah Palin and it’s by Cup O’ Joes. I am posting the lyrics below and the song on youtube. You can listen to it here.

Good-bye Warren. THANK YOU. I miss you.


Ballad of Sarah Palin (Just be an Alaskan)

Sarah, Sarah, oh my Sarah Palin,

You’re a mother, a leader, and Alaska’s fair maiden,

I know you hear people calling your name,

But you abandoned Alaska,

I think that’s a shame.

Sarah Palin,

You were the Governor of Alaska,

Rove knew you were up there,

And told McCain he should tap ya,

So you burst on the scene with your stunning good looks,

But red lights started flashing when you tried to take away our books,

If you’d opened one and read it,

Well, then you could seeee,

That Africa’s a continent and not a countryyy.

They mocked you and called you Caribou Barbie,

Now you’re the lovely new face of the Republican Party,

With your suits, your shoes, your Tina Fey glasses,

Your folksy ‘You Betchas’ sure play to the masses.

Right from the start, you had people attack you,

Said you didn’t know nothing about the questions they asked you,

They said in Alaska, you didn’t play by the rules,

That your daughter was pregnant and still in high school,

Some hinted you didn’t know Bagdhad from Zurich,

And you were mishandled by both Gibson and Couric,

(Chorus)

Sarah, Sarah, oh my Sarah Palin,

You’re a mother, a leader, and Alaska’s fair maiden,

I know you hear people calling your name,

But you abandoned Alaska,

I think that’s a shame.

Supporters were nervous for your first debate,

Afraid you’d think NAFTA meant New York and LA,

Then you lost the election,

We thought you were done,

Secretly hoped you’d turn tail and run,

And you did, you went home, back to Alaska

We breathed a sigh of relief, thought we’d seen the last of ya,

I know it must’ve made you irate,

When it was alleged that Todd ran your state,

Now Levi’s in Playgirl and all over the place,

Sarah, forgive him, set out a Thanksgiving plate

You quit on Alaska and wrote a new book,

Going Rogue sold millions, got you a new look

There you were talking and talking on my box,

With the help of that clever old Fox,

You told the people that we’re in big trouble,

And some of them begged, “Lead us out of the rubble,”

But with you at the helm, our trouble will double,

So please, go back to Wasilia and live in your bubble!

(Chorus)

Sarah, we’ll  miss you but not very much,

Please do us a favor and don’t stay in touch,

Commune with the grizzlies, gun clubs and such,

Go back to Wasilia and live in your Hutch.


So sit back, relax, enjoy your fame

Sarah, Sarah, please don’t come again,

Sarah, Sarah, don’t come back again

Oh please, Sarah Palin,

Just be an Alaskan,

Just be an Alaskan.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the San Francisco Free Clinic, the Bay Citizen and the San Francisco School Alliance. The family also requests a donation of blood or platelets to a local blood bank.

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Is Eminem too controversial to win the Grammy for Album of the Year?

Over the years, Eminem has won 13 Grammys but he’s never been recognized outside of the rap genre. This year he was nominated in ten categories including Song of the Year and Record of the Year, along with 8 other nominations. He walked away with just two wins: Best Solo Rap Performance and Best Rap Album.

Eminem rocketed to fame over ten years ago as a rare successful white rapper, with songs that included controversial lyrics about raping his mom and killing his girlfriend. He disappeared for several years, then staged a comeback in 2010 with his brilliant album “Recovery.”

“Recovery” is nothing less than mesmerizing. For me, it’s like listening to Bob Dylan; every time I put it on, even after listening a million times, I hear something new. It’s pretty fascinating to witness Eminem’s transition from Slim Shady who sang about all kinds of violence against women to his recent hit “Love the Way You Lie” which shows a deeper perspective on the issue. That song also features Rhianna, well known as a victim of violence from boyfriend Chris Brown. Rhianna has been pretty silent on the events that happened to her, making her decision to show up in this song, in some ways, her most significant commentary.

With “Recovery,” as always, Eminem brings issues to the forefront many people would prefer to ignore or pretend don’t exist. Sexual violence against women happens every day. It hasn’t gone away; Eminem’s music, in every stage, forces listeners to recognize this epidemic exists.

Here’s something I wrote about Eminem for the Chronicle in 2000

I Prefer My Misogyny Straight Up.

MARGOT MAGOWAN

Wednesday, July 12, 2000

I LIKE hip-hop music. I know I’m not supposed to because so many of the songs have horrifyingly violent, sexist or homophobic lyrics.

Hip-hop is also the most innovative thing to happen to music in a long time.

When you compare hip-hop to its biggest rival for domination of the music charts – the corporate-created Backstreet Boys and N’sync, and pop-pincess clones Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera – rappers/ producers like Dr. Dre and Method Man are infinitely more talented. Hip-hop is captivating precisely because it tells a story, overlaying lyrics on top of familiar backbeats, creating songs that are at once new and familiar.

The story hip-hop tells may be disturbing or degrading, but that’s no reason to shun it. As art has always done, hip-hop describes our times, exposing a sometimes ugly world- of drugs, sexism, poverty and violence- that middle-class America may prefer to hide away.

In the ’60s, Bob Dylan enraged those who upheld the status quo. Today, we have a whole new slew of musical poets.

Just like they did with Dylan, the older generation asks, “How can you listen to this awful music? There’s no melody! And those lyrics!”

Baby boomers protest that THEIR songs were about peace and love, while hip-hop celebrates killing and humiliates women.

But surely rock ‘n’ roll stars have never been known for their kindness to women. The Rolling Stones cranked out hits like “Under My Thumb,” “Brown Sugar” and “Little T & A,” sneered through lyrics like “You make a dead man come” and glorified violence in songs like “Midnight Rambler.”

Sexual violence in lyrics wasn’t limited to bad boy bands either. Old peaceniks Jerry Garcia and Neil Young sang songs like “Down by the River” about murdering a lover. Ever since Elvis shook his pelvis, music has shocked, and the older generation just didn’t get it.

Critics charge that hip-hop crosses a line, most recently fingering rap sensation Eminem, who sings about raping his mother and slicing up his wife in front of their daughter.

Freud (looking like Archie)Freud 

But Freudians would tell you Eminem’s mother rage and sexual fantasies are pure id, the uncensored subconscious struggling for self expression. The views of Sigmund Freud, of course, are infamous for his distorted views on women, though that doesn’t stop us from studying him in our best educational institutions. Nor should it.

Hip-hop may be more shocking and graphic than your run-of-the-mill shapers of Western thought, but I prefer my misogyny straight up. Movies like “Pretty Woman,” in which Julia Roberts plays a prostitute with a heart of gold, may be prettier packaging, but if you think women are “hos,” just tell me so.

Tales of sex and violence aren’t limited to male artists. “Goodbye Earl” by the Dixie Chicks and Macy Gray’s “I Committed Murder,” two recent hits by women artists, both detail violent killings with unrestrained glee. Angry young women muttering obscenities include Alanis Morissette, Courtney Love and Ani DiFranco.

Nor is disdain for men by women artists a new fad. Sylvia Plath, the late poet and darling of English lit majors, famously compared male genitalia to turkey necks and gizzards. Never one to shy away from sex or violence, she once said she “eats men like air.”

The difference, of course, is when women say these things, it really is just art. Because men are the guys with power, their expressions of domination, violence and sexual exploitation contribute to a culture where women really are forced into limited categories of queens or hos, where masculinity is defined by how many babes you score, and where women often are left powerless and exploited.

But sanitizing music is just shooting the messenger; it can’t transform a sexist culture. Warning stickers on CD covers are no protection from the deeply entrenched social realities that hip-hop pushes right in your face.

Women won’t feel threatened by lyrics when they overcome real inequities and get real power. Women will then be too busy making art and making deals to waste time wondering if they should side with the radical right, clamoring to keep obscenities out of Wal-Mart.

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